The date was September 13, 1996. The Waimea event began with a Forage Field Day at the Mealani Research Station and continued with the evening “Celebrating a Taste of the Hawaiian Range” at the Kahilu Town Hall. Both activities had an educational focus and were presented by a founding committee.
Committee of Seven Sets Up First Taste
Originating the program was Milton Yamasaki, ag research technician at the UH Mealani Research Station and Glenn Fukumoto, county extension agent-livestock program of UH-CTAHR. Other members and their duties included Chef Olelo pa‘a Ogawa, culinary; Gene Erger, marketing; rancher Rick Habien, producers; Kulana Foods, processing; and extension agent Burton Smith, education.
Education Key to Activities
“The goal of Taste was to create a collaboration between ranchers, food handlers and chefs to create good food,” says Yamasaki, former Mealani manager. The retired ag research technician adds that the day’s events were educational on three levels: to show ranchers how to produce and market a consistent quality, grass-fed product; to have chefs work with the product while using the entire animal; and to show consumers that when grass-fed beef is prepared properly, it is a good product.
“By getting everybody involved in the product—creating, preparing and enjoying—the hope was chefs and consumers would purchase it,” Yamasaki details.
Forage Field Day Presenters
More than 60 ranchers and food handlers—meat processors, food and beverage professionals, chefs, butchers—attended the 1996 Forage Field Day. Speakers and topics:
- Edgar Smith of Vancouver’s Beaver Meadow Farms: producing quality products from pasture
- Laura Freeman of Laura’s Lean Beef: marketing beef
- Amy Hammond of Special Events Hawaii: advertising and nitch marketing
- Derek Kurisu of KTA Super Stores: marketing a branded product: Mountain Apple Brand
Evening Taste Attracts Public
The first evening Taste at the then Kahilu Town Hall was modest in size when compared to the enormity of today’s event which sprawls both inside and out of the Hilton Waikoloa Village. There was just over 20 culinary/display booths, about a fourth of what is offered today.
“We had no funding for the (evening) food show; our committee took a risk that the ticket revenue was going to cover the costs of the expenses,” shares Glen Fukumoto, county extension agent-livestock program of UH-CTAHR. “If not, we were all ready to pay from our own pockets. At that first ‘taste event,’ no one envisioned that the event would be a spark and part of the revolution—a reawakening of the local food movement that we see today.”
Who Was Cooking
Kuhio Grille has the distinction of participating in all 20 Tastes, with Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill showing up for 19 events. Find the list of the original 16 participating restaurants in August’s Taste It blog: https://www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com/index.php/2015/08/04/kuhio-grille-participates-at-every-taste/
Food Booths Offer Sampling
The six original food booths included:
- Tropical Dreams Ice Cream
- Kamuela Liquor Store/Alvin Wakayama
- Cook’s Discoveries/Patti Cook
- Sugar ‘n Spice
- Excelsior Dairy, Inc.
- Val’s Party Pleasure